Saturday, 30 June 2012

Mint Sauce

Variegated pineapple mint
This time of year I seem to be too busy to blog. There's so much to do outside it's hard to find the time to do the essential things at the desk, like work, let alone this. But  today I made mint sauce, and thought the world should know.Why? It's one of the seasonal rituals that marks midsummer, I suppose, the beginning of the long, wonderful feasting season of autumn.

Mint sauce is always my first real harvest activity, the first big bag-full of stuff to be brought in from the garden. There is always a daily picking of salads of various sorts, some greens, lots of herbs, etc, but that feels like grazing rather than harvest.

I do mint sauce in quantity because I'm addicted to it and eat it with nearly every meal (every time I have potatoes I have it on the side, every time I eat curry I have a minty raita, and every salad dressing I ever make has mint sauce in it). A single jar of mint sauce requires a huge volume of mint - still surprising after about 20 years of making it.

Fortunately I have an extreme abundance of mint in the garden. It's my number one weed and grows rampantly among the fruit bushes. So gathering it is also a kind of weeding. I have several kinds - a very nice apple mint with furry leaves, a beautiful pineapple mint with white-and-green mottled leaves and a ginger mint that is a green-bronze thug. There's also wild peppermint here and a rather feeble spearmint. Today's sauce was made with apple and ginger mints.

I love the process, music on, newspaper spread out on  the floor, picking the leaves off the stems in a meditative manner and washing them. There are always all manner of creatures to pick off the greenery - blobs of cuckoo spit with little green hoppers inside, slugs to grumble at, spiders to rescue. There's the palaver of jam jars to be sterilised with boiling water and the sweet sugary vinegar to cook up. By this stage aromatherapy has really set in and I'm in a mint-hazed dwam of anticipation. I screw the grinder onto the shelf (I've got an old-fashioned hand-mincer - no mains electricity thus no food processor to ruin the quiet ritual) and start feeding it with leaves. Round and round the handle goes and the deep green fresh-scented pulp piles up in the bowl. On the music machine it's Liadov - old Russian folk tunes with lush orchestral textures - music to swoon to.

It's suddenly all over. The jars are full, the vinegar is in, the lids are on, the washing up is done. There's a shelf of pretty green jars and warm rain outside - the chanterelles will be shaping up nicely.

I still have masses of mint in the garden. Favourite recipes most welcome.